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Lunch Expenses for Church Staff—Business or Personal?

How to determine what your church should be paying for.

Lunch Expenses for Church Staff—Business or Personal?
Image: Rob Bye / Unsplash

We all have to eat—so why are lunch expenses sometimes counted as business expenses? We reached out to CPA, church finance specialist, and Church Law & Tax Editorial Advisor Vonna Laue for her insights on this topic and how churches can implement best practices regarding lunch expenses.

What is required for a lunch to be considered a business expense?

For lunches to qualify as a business expense, they need to have a legitimate business purpose, and that purpose has to be documented. Similar to needing receipts whenever there’s a meal involved, you also need to document who participated and the ministry purpose for the lunch. You have to be honest and legitimate about your claim, and if it were ever challenged, the standard would be: “What would a reasonable person say?” If a youth pastor is claiming they’ve got a business lunch every day, a reasonable person ...

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